Business Recovery:

Products and solutions to help your business move forward.

Get Started


Types of Lighting Control Systems

Revised: 8/8/19
Grainger Editorial Staff

Choosing lighting is no easy feat. Regardless if your light fixtures are indoors or out, one fact remains true: Lighting affects everyday life. But there’s more to lighting automation than just bulb brightness or placement. There are plenty of different types of lighting control systems and options to choose from. Find out everything there is to know about the different types of light switches, to uncover your needs and find the best choice for you.

Types of Lighting Controls

According to the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, lighting accounts for about 11 percent of energy use in residential buildings and 18 percent in commercial buildings. Although there are a lot of energy efficiency options out there, one of the most effective ones are lighting controls. Phasing out old, inefficient lighting can conserve energy and even lower costs.

In general, there are three types of lighting control systems. There are dimmers, sensors and timers. Each has different purposes and features. Learn all about the different kinds to see which is right for your building.

Light Dimmers


Light dimmers do exactly what their name states, they dim light. These switches allow for more control than just on and off. With the ability to decrease brightness, dimmers reduce wattage and output, which saves energy and lowers cost.

Pros: Reduces energy consumption, allows for control over brightness, inexpensive.
Cons: Can potentially reduce a light bulb’s efficiency.

Motion Sensor Lighting


Motion sensor lighting controls turn off and on by the detection of movement. They can be installed indoors, but are particularly useful in outdoor locations to light up areas at night. They, too, are energy efficient by eliminating accidentally leaving the lights on completely. Plus, no one wastes any time trying to find the light switch in a dark room. Sensor lighting controls use body heat and wavelengths so they’re extremely reliable, as well.

Pros: Energy efficient, easy to use, saves time.
Cons: Little control, unwanted shutoff if motion isn’t detected, don’t work well with certain bulbs.



Lighting timer controls are programmable light switches. They can be set so that lights are turned on only during a certain period of time. They are helpful in regulating energy consumption also but just make scheduling easier for your home or building. There are two types of timer lighting controls, manual and in-wall programmable digital timers.

Pros: Increase energy efficiency, good for scheduling.
Cons: Aren’t great to use outdoors because of seasonal changes, may require particular bulbs and lamps.

Benefits of Installing Lighting Control Systems

Installing the right lights in your office or facility has more benefits than just saving energy and money. According to a study by the Journal of Consumer Psychology, bright lights spark emotionally charged responses. By installing dimmers, employees can have the ability to control the brightness of the workplace. The study’s conclusions showed that personal dimming of the brightness of the room may increase employee satisfaction and motivation.


Center for Climate and Energy Solutions – Technology Solutions

U.S. Energy Information Administration – Frequently Asked Questions – Lighting Controls

Study: For a Calmer Office, Dim the Lights

The product statements contained herein are intended for informational purposes only. Such product statements do not constitute a product recommendation or representation as to the appropriateness for a specific application or use. W. W. Grainger, Inc. does not guarantee the result of product operation or assume any liability for personal injury or property damage resulting from the use of such products.

The information contained in this article is intended for general information purposes only and is based on information available as of the initial date of publication. No representation is made that the information or references are complete or remain current. This article is not a substitute for review of current applicable government regulations, industry standards, or other standards specific to your business and/or activities and should not be construed as legal advice or opinion. Readers with specific questions should refer to the applicable standards or consult with an attorney.


Get more great content like this sent to your inbox.